Southern California fishermen exposed the environmental hypocrisy of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at a protest in front of the Hyatt Regency Plaza in Los Angeles during the Global Climate Summit on September 30. The protesters charged that Schwarzenegger is ignoring ocean pollution while at the same time pushing massive no fishing zones through his fast track Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) process.
“Governor Schwarzenegger is trying to build his legacy as a green governor while he simultaneously ignores all the ocean pollution plaguing California’s beaches and coastal waters,” said Wendy Tochihara, coordinator of the protest. “As anyone in Southern California who enjoys the ocean knows, poor water-quality and resulting beach closures are all too common, especially during the rainy season.”
Schwarzenegger is imposing these new fishing closures even though a recent peer reviewed scientific study in Science magazine, coauthored by Dr. Ray Hilborn, said that the California Current is the least exploited fishery of any place in the world studied. California already has the most extensive marine protected area in the world, with the entire continental shelf closed to fishing for groundfish, along with numerous existing marine reserves and the most restrictive fishing regulations on the planet.
The 25 protesters included recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, divers, spear fishermen, surfers, kayakers, and business owners. “Fishermen from all over gathered to show how ‘green’ our Governor really is,” said Tochihara.
The MLPA currently being implemented in Southern California and on the North Coast was supposed to be comprehensive, addressing all aspects that affect the ocean, like pollution, coastal development and fishing. “However, the Governor has abandoned sound science and is instead only duplicating existing fishing ban laws,” she emphasized.
The protesters held colorful signs with slogans including “Terminate Pollution Not Fishermen, “MLPA : Poachers Paradise,” “MLPA: Another Un-Funded Mandate,” and “California Has Sustainable Fisheries.”
On the day before, a broad coalition of North Coast environmentalists, seaweed harvesters and fishermen held a protest in Eureka also blasting the “Green Governor’s” environmental hypocrisy as the Schwarzenegger administration held public meetings regarding the MLPA process on the North Coast.
Mike Carpenter, a sea urchin diver and organizer of a fundraiser for the California Fisheries Coalition in Albion the previous Saturday, made the vital connection between the MLPA process and Scharzenegger’s campaign to build a peripheral canal. Carpenter emphasized that the MLPA is just a “cover-up” for the Governor’s plans to build a peripheral canal around the California Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas, through the Delta Vision and Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) process.
Many fishermen supported the MLPA when it passed it in 1999. However, under the Republican administration of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, it has become a grotesque parody of what it originally intended to do. I don’t think that the original act was intended to strip federally recognized tribal nations such as the Kashia of Sonoma County of their abalone and seaweed harvesting rights – or to appoint an oil company lobbyist like Cathy Reheis-Boyd, who is employed by the Western States Petroleum Association, to head the MLPA South Coast Task Blue Ribbon Force.
Under Schwarzenegger, the “public” process has become hijacked by private corporate funding through the Resource Legacy Fund Foundation, a group with strong ties to water districts and some of the worst corporate greenwashers on the planet. The law is now joined at the hip with the peripheral canal by Schwarzenegger and Resources Secretary Mike Chrisman through the parallel MLPA Initiative, Delta Vision and Bay Delta Conservation Plan processes.
The peripheral canal and MLPA process are intimately linked by:
(1) Leadership: Phil Isenberg presided over both the Central Coast MLPA and the Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Forces – and did an equally atrocious job of “leading” both processes.
(2) Funding: The Resource Legacy Foundation has funded both the MLPA process and the Delta Vision Foundation.
(3) Greenwashing: Desperately needed actions to restore our ocean, bay and Delta waters have been substituted under the MLPA process with the imposition of new, redundant fishing closures on the most heavily regulated ocean waters on the planet to further the Governor’s “green” facade. In the case of the Delta Vision and BDCP processes, the dire need to restore the Delta by decreasing water exports and retiring drainage impaired land on the San Joaquin Valley’s west side has been substituted with plans to build a peripheral canal and increase water exports to corporate agribusiness and southern California while taking Delta family farms out of production and converting them to salt marsh.
(4) Racism and Environmental Elitism: Tribal and environmental justice communities in both processes have been excluded in an egregious, disgusting example of environmental racism.
The racism of the current MLPA process become apparent when the Kashia Tribe was banned from harvesting abalone, mussels and seaweed off Stewarts Point Reservation, as they have done for hundreds of years, by the California Fish and Game Commission at their meeting in August.
“What you are doing to us is taking the food out of our mouths,” said Lester Pinola, the past chairman of the Kashia Rancheria in a public hearing prior to the contentious vote. “When the first settlers came to the coast, they didn’t how to feed themselves. Our people showed them how to eat out of the ocean. In my opinion, this was a big mistake.”
While corporate environmentalists and the Schwarzenegger administration are pushing for further “no take” marine reserves in a largely recovered groundfish fishery, Central Valley salmon, delta smelt, longfin smelt, green sturgeon, southern resident killer whales, herring and other species have collapsed to record low population levels in recent years, due to massive exports of water to corporate agribusiness by the state and federal governments. These are species that are nearing extinction!
Yet the same Packard Foundation and Resource Legacy Fund Foundation-funded NGOs that are so fervent about supporting the corrupt MLPA process and praising Schwarzenegger for his “green” leadership appear to be supporting the peripheral canal, an enormously costly project that would seal the doom of collapsing salmon and Delta fish populations, or are refusing to take a stand in opposition to it! What’s going on here?
Fortunately, North Coast grassroots environmentalists, Indian Tribes, commercial fishermen and recreational anglers and are now united with southern California fishermen, surfers and kayakers in opposing the current unjust implementation of the MLPA and Schwarzenegger’s attempt to greenwash his failed environmental policies at the Global Climate Summit. They realize that there is nothing “green” about Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the worst Governor for fish and the environment in California history.
Dan Bacher is an editor of The Fish Sniffer , described as “The #1 Newspaper in the World Dedicated Entirely to Fishermen”
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